|My thanks to Mr. Cooper for providing the photograph and family details for this article.|
Cooper's, now a distant memory, once played an active part in the life of the town providing a financial lifeline to the needy. The shop was situated on the left hand side ascending Castle Street and numbered in the 1881 census as fifty-six. It stood opposite Taylor's Yard, the first yard above Church Walk, and just below the pawnshop itself, extended Chapel Yard. Horace Warren made reference to Cooper's in his reminiscences of the 1920s in Historian No. 30. Mr. Bales had operated a pawnshop, now commemorated by Bales Yard, very close to this site in the 1840s, possibly even in part of this property. It was the appearance of Horace Warren's article which prompted Mr. Cooper of Burbage, great grandson of the first Mr. Cooper who served as a pawn¬broker, to present me with the photograph which portrays Mr. Andrew Cooper outside the shop on some undefined but sunny day early this century. Judging by the contents of the shop, business was flourishing!
The history of Cooper's extends back nearly to the middle of the nineteenth century and my thanks are due to David Knight for the information which follows. In Castle Street there stood a property called The Ram Inn, the scene of a riot mentioned by A. J. Pickering in "The Cradle and Home of the Hosiery Trade” on page 88. It was this building that in 1869 became a pawnbroker's. The directory for 1874 gives the address of Andrew Cooper as Hill Street but his later business was clearly conducted in Castle Street.
In 1887 Andrew Cooper was chairman of the Local Board and as chairman used his casting vote to prevent purchase of the gas works, possibly because of the cost to the ratepayers. He was also instrumental in ending the search for local water supplies through boreholes in Hinckley in favour of water being brought from the flooded colliery at Snarestone in 1891 which at last gave the townspeople a secure water supply. Andrew Cooper appears as a pawnbroker in directories in 1892 and again in 1900.
Andrew Cooper in the 1881 census appears as born in Hinckley and aged 40. His wife was Rebecca, aged 39, and his children were Elizabeth aged 13, Edith aged 8, and Andrew aged 4. A fourth child, William born in 1879, is not listed. William was the grandfather of Mr. Cooper who has kindly provided the details of the shop and the photograph. It would appear that Andrew, his father's namesake, took over the business and would continue his occupation until his death in 1944. He and his shop will still be a memory to our readers of more mature years.
When Andrew died a search was made for a will which only came to light after a locksmith had been brought in to open the safe of which the keys were also missing. An exhaustive search was made and in an inner drawer inside the safe a mutilated will was found which made it necessary to apply for letters of administration to dispose of the property of Andrew Cooper and incidentally of that of a good proportion of his clients who had left unredeemed pledges in the shop. So ended the business of Cooper's, pawnbroker to the Hinckley community, nearly a century after the business had begun.
Author: Hugh Beavin
Written for: Hinckley Historian Magazine